Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Chocolate Cupcakes

Happy Halloween everyone. This year, I am doing more for this holiday as my kids are at the age where they love dressing up and enjoy the spooky idea of the holiday. Every year, Halloween celebrations and costumes get better and I find myself too very tempted to dress up, but not this year. Maybe next year. But this year, I have improved by carving our first Jack O Lantern, baking Halloween themed cupcakes and having friends over for trick or treating with the kids in the neighborhood. Trick or treat is always a guessing game to me, the weather is either warm or cold and this year is cold! And also the amount of candies to buy for my neighborhood kids. And also when my own kids come home with a whole bucket of them, I have to hide them high and away from eye sights!



Halloween is the starting of celebrations for the end of the year and I am looking forward to November and December baking season. At the meantime, we shall enjoy this first and Spooktacular celebration first with these lovely cupcakes and our first Jack O Lantern. The recipe for these cupcakes is from BBC Good Food website and I called them cupcakes as the texture is like tender cake rather that the denser muffin. For a sweeter version, milk chocolate chips can be used instead of the dark chocolate recommended. For the white decorated cupcakes, melt the white chocolate only when you are ready to make them as they harden up faster than the dark or milk chocolate.  As the chocolate is not ganache but pure melted chocolate, they harden up after a while. When bite into, they give a crackly crunch to the tender cupcake under.  Happy Halloween and stay safe!





Thursday, October 28, 2010

October Bento Week 4



It is Halloween on Sunday and the whole week, everything was orange, black, purple and green everywhere. Curry and myself never celebrated nor embraced this American holiday till we had kids and when our oldest one turned 3. Now that Miss E and Prince D are 6 and 4 respectively and know that it is all about the candy and dressing up, they simply notify us the parents earlier every year on what they want to be and imagining how much candies they will get for the year. We are lucky to live in a clustered neighborhood area with lots of neighbors to give out candies and plenty with the spooky decorations and frightening houses looks!

I haven't decided on what to bake for Halloween and stuck with some Bento for Miss E's lunchbox this week. I picked the easiest and fastest ones to prepare but I did tried out more on the cutting of shapes and experimenting more with the Japanese seaweed Nori. I am happy with both Bentos and I was glad Miss E enjoyed both at school.

Happy Halloween!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ricotta & Fig Tart

Late summer fruits are still sold in the grocery stores. Red big raspberries and strawberries, each kind tucked in the quart and pint containers, reminded me how fun this summer was for me and my family. Despite the over abundance of apples and pomegranates in autumn, summer fruits colors and varieties are still the best when used in baking. And there is one particular fruit that is less use nor seen in many of the cookbooks which is lovely eaten on itself and beautiful as garnish on any tarts or cakes. The figs I see comes in 2 types, one called Black Mission with dark purplish skin and deep colored flesh and the other called Calimyrna with light greenish skin and light pinkish flesh, both sweet and loaded with seeds. I usually buy the dried figs, which has high fiber and laxative effect on the digestive system. Some people don't like figs for the reason that it is too loaded with seeds and doesn't taste smooth in the mouth. I like it very much for its sweetness and extremely juicy when they are in season.

Most of the recipes I see on the internet uses fresh figs on fresh cream cheese desserts and I wanted to try a baked cheese tart with it instead. I have made different cheesecakes before but never attempted a cheese tart, that has a crunch tart base and containing a plain baked cheesecake inside it. And for this recipe, I used Ricotta cheese, which has a more grainy texture than the usual cream cheese but less in fat content. For more structure, I added 1 tbsp of all purpose flour to the cheese mixture as I didn't like the idea of a pudding like cheese filling in a solid tart case. Instead of the usual vanilla, I infused the cream cheese with lavendar, which exudes a slight flowery spice aroma. Instead of glazing the figs with syrup or jam, I opted for powdered sugar as I wasn't sure if the juice of the figs together with the sugar glaze might weigh down the fruit and soak the cream cheese filling on the bottom.


The taste of Ricotta was surprisingly very good despite the less fat content. To my tastebuds, it actually tasted like smooth firm tofu more than cheese. Of course the addition of enough sugar is important here as the cream cheese taste is very mild and the sweet taste of sugar complements with the firmer texture of the Ricotta cheese. The tart shell was blindbaked for 10 mins at 375F before taking in the cheese and egg filling. The whole tart was then baked again at a lower temperature of 350F for 55 mins. This cheese tart is best served at room temperature and can be reheated the day after. The fruit topping is only to be added on the day of eating. I almost felt so sad having to cut this perfect rectangle shaped tart into pieces! The tart is a prequel to the Thanksgiving and X'mas bakings that I have in mind and I am making my list of cookies and cakes to bake already. Have you? Happy Baking everyone.


Recipe

Tart Shell (for 1 rectangle tart (available at Williams Sonoma) or 8 inch round Tart)
Ingredients
300g All Purpose Flour
180g Cold Butter, cut into smaller pieces
1 large egg
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Method
1)Stir the flour together with the sugar and salt. Place this mixture into a food processor.
2)Scatter the butter pieces all over and start to pulse with intervals for 30 seconds.
3)Beat the egg lightly in a separate bowl and pour over into the butter and flour mixture.
4)Pulse in a continuous motion for 15 seconds to mix and obtain a soft dough, resembling cookie dough. If the dough doesn't come altogether and appear slightly dry, add 1 tbsp cold water and pulse and mix for another 10 seconds.
5)Remove the dough and shape into a ball, wrap up with cling film and place in refrigerator to rest for 1 hour.
6)Remove from fridge, grease the tart pan with removable bottom all over. Roll out the dough to fill the tart pan. (Trick: Do not roll out too thin as the tart will shrink slightly during blind baking, emphasize a little bit more thickness on the rims and use the method tucking in the sides with your fingers and NOT roll over with the rolling pin to cut the excess).  Take time to tuck in the sides and rim and leave about 1/4 inch of overhanging dough over the jagged rim of the pan. Using your fingers, pat down the 1/4 inch on top of the rim to form a thicker rim top of the tart. I find this method very effective in preventing too much shrinking during the blind baking of the tart.
7)Prick the bottom of the tart shell and return to refrigerator for another 20 mins. Preheat the oven to 375F.
8)Bake the tart shell for 10 mins. Remove from the oven and lower the oven to 350F. Proceed to prepare the filling.


Ricotta & Fig Filling
Ingredients
450g Part Skim Ricotta Cheese
140g Sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp lavendar (or vanilla)
10 to 15 Black Mission or Calmyrna Figs (Sliced thickly, 1 fig will yield 3 to 4 slices)
10 raspberries and mint leaves to garnish
1 tbsp powdered sugar

Method
1)Beat the Ricotta till creamy. Add in the sugar and beat to combine.
2)Beat in the eggs, one at a time, till well combined.
3)Sprinkle in the flour and the lavendar/vanilla and fold to combine.
4)Pour this filling into the partly baked tart shell, smoothing out with a spatula.
5)Bake at 350F on the middle rack for 55 to 60 mins till the filling is brown and set. The filling will look puffed up but once cooled outside the oven, it will deflate slightly. Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature.
6)Line and stack the fig slices to form a fan effect. Slot in the raspberries and mint leaves randomly and use a small sifter, sprinkle in the powdered sugar.

Serves : 4 to 6 person



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pizza


After all the bakings of cakes, muffins and cookies, I have never baked a pizza before till this month! I cannot help but imagine how much I would have saved money on take outs for Friday nights if I started making homemade pizza earlier. Indeed, with the love for beautiful sweet cakes and fancy tarts I forsaken this simple baked family favorite and from now on, I will enjoy this pizza making with my kids come weekends.

To make a pizza is not difficult. The most important thing about a pizza is not the filling but the crust itself. Once you get the best crust recipe, you can stretch it thin to make the more preferred crisp base type or roll it thick to make a deep dish or stuffed crust type. Either way, this pizza crust recipe is versatile and yummy. I made mine fancier by including chopped basil leaves into the bread dough itself and made the stuffed crust rim. Instead of Mozarella which gives a stretchy effect on the crust, I used grated parmesan which only flavored it and melted inside to seal the edges.



To ensure a crisp bottom crust, I baked the crust for 10 mins to firm it up before putting on the tomato paste with the other fillings. This recipe is enough for a 14 inches sized pizza or two of a single 8 inches. You can put on any type of fillings you like but I find that pork bacon must be slightly pan fried prior to topping the pizza as its fats kind of ooze out and grease the pizza crust during baking, which makes the bottom a little soggy. Turkey bacon works fine and my pizza fillings are made up of turkey bacon, broccoli, mushroom, grape tomatoes, grated garlic, basil leaves, tomato paste and grated cheese.

Recipe


Pizza Crust (for one 14 inches pizza)
250g Bread flour
250g All Purpose Flour
1 tbsp yeast granules
250ml warm water
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chopped basil leaves
2 cups grated cheese
2/3 cup tomato paste

Fillings
Your choice

Method
1)Stir the 2 types of flour together with the yeast granules, salt, pepper and sugar.
2)Pour in the vegetable oil and mix.
3)Sprinkle in the chopped basil leaves and pour in the warm water to mix. Use the hook attachment on the cake mixer or mix with hand to form a soft dough. Knead for 3 mins till all ingredients are combined.
4)Form into a ball, place in a large bowl and cover with cling film. Let the dough rest and rise for 1 hour in warm place, expanding to almost double.
5)Grease a 14 inches pizza pan with vegetable oil or cooking spray.
6)Take out the dough and stretch to fit the size of the pan. Use your hands to pat down the dough onto the pan, with outward movement toward the rim of the pan. The dough will stretch and be thicker near the rim. Sprinkle some grated cheese on the dough nearest to the rim, go around the rim making a one inch wide ring of the cheese. Take the dough from the rim and fold to cover the cheese, like rolling a towel. Using your finger, pinch and press in the dough to enclose the cheese.
7)Let the dough rest for another 30 mins and preheat the oven to 425F.
8)Grease the dough lightly with vegetable oil again or use a cooking spray and bake the dough for 10 mins.
9)Remove from the oven and apply a layer of tomato paste all over and put in fillings of your choice. Lastly sprinkle with cheese all over and bake for 25 to 30 mins till the crust is slightly brown.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Braised Taro & Pork Ribs


I am slowing down on the blogging this month as I realized that I am exhausted from the whole of last summer and the onset of the autumn fall weather and routines doesn't help much. I love fall weather, but it is just the days gets dark earlier and the alarm clock snooze button is put to full use every morning. My Bento for the past 2 weeks was a repetition of everything I made for the past one month and I better tone it down to the best pictured Bento of the week rather than a daily chronicle of all my girl's boxed lunch. The late sunrise in the morning doesn't provide me with good natural lighting to continue photography in the morning.

This is a recipe that occurs to me as something very homey, warm and good to eat on a cool autumn evening. Taro comes in 2 sizes, small and large and I usually buy the large ones as I find the taste more milky with a heavy nutty taste and can withstand to longer cooking. After cooking, taro tastes like potatoes but has a heavier content of starch lingering in the mouth. I like to eat this dish on its own without the staple rice. The pork ribs retained its succulent bite and tender at the same time and with the addition of corn flour in marinating it prior to cooking, the juice is sealed in and the meat remained moist without much gravy. The Taro must be cooked to soft state but not mushy and the test is to cut through a piece with your spatula, if it cut easily like cooked soft potato, then it is ready. A quick reheat later after freezing will further cook the taro and soften it.

Recipe

Ingredients
500g taro pieces, skin removed, wash and pat dry
400g Pork ribs and meat
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp Sesame oil
3 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tsp White pepper
1 large Onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 knob ginger (about 2 tbsp), sliced
4 stalks of scallion, separate the white part and retain
350ml water
2 tbsp light soy sauce

Method
1)Marinate the pork ribs with the salt, sesame oil, chinese cooking wine and white pepper for 30 mins.
2)Heat a large skillet with 2 tbsp cooking oil. Fry the onion, white part of scallion, garlic and ginger slices for 1 min till fragrant.
3)Add in the pork ribs and meat pieces. Coat and mix with the contents of the skillet. Cover and let it cook for 3 mins.
4)Add in the water and turn up the heat to a simmering stage.
5)Tip in all the taro pieces and stir to slot and mix in with the meat. Turn down the heat, and let it cook covered for 30 to 35 mins.
6)Remove lid and add in light soy sauce. Cook further for 5 to 10 mins till the taro is tender and cut easily with the spatula.
7)Dish up and sprinkle with scallion.

Serves:  4 to 5 person

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Red Bean Dessert Soup


Red Bean is another staple in Asia, mostly China and Japan which uses this ingredient mostly in their sweet and dessert category. The size of this bean is smaller and rounder than the kidney beans and sold in dried packets, alongside the green mung bean. The Chinese palate believes that red beans can replenish energy and prolong concentration, and a good type of food to serve to often fatigue and overtired individuals. There are always differences in the beliefs and practices of Asian and Western ideas in terms of the benefit in the ingredients and food that we take and in this particular case, I believe the Asian idea is right. Everytime I make this dessert soup and eat it, I feel energized the next day with longer attention span and energy to last the whole day. This dessert can be served hot or cold and I like it both ways. When refrigerated, the consistency thickens further and just before serving, add in some water to dilute it slightly.

Recipe

Ingredients
340g Red Beans
150g rock sugar/granulated sugar (add more to your taste)
1500ml hot boiled water
25g Dried Tangerine Peel
Extra boiled water

Method
1)Wash the beans in a colander under running water. Place in a large bowl and pour in 3 times the quantity of cold water to soak the beans. Soak for at least 4 hours or overnight.
2)Rinse and throw out the soaking water. Place the beans into a rice cooker and pour in the 1500ml hot boiled water. Turn on the rice cooker and let it cook for 1 hour. The beans can be cooked over the stove too, but leave the lid partially open or else it will boil over, turn on medium heat.
3)After an hour, check the water content, the beans will start to get mushy and soft. Slowly stir with a spatula and gently crush the beans inside the rice cooker. Add in extra 800ml to 1000ml hot boiled water and the dried tangerine peel. Close and continue to cook for another 45mins to 1 hour till the water content is reduced to half.
4)Add in the rock sugar/granulated sugar and stir. Add more to your taste. Cook for another 15 mins. The soup is ready when the beans are all mushy and the texture is heavy and thick like congee.
5)Turn off heat and serve hot or let cool completely before chilling in the refrigerator.

Serves: 4 to 5 person

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pumpkin Loaf Cake

This cake was an accidental cake, made out of remaining batter from the pumpkin tart filling that I had with an eyeball amount of flour and baking powder. I might have baked alot for the past 2 years, everything is still experimental to me and I was glad that I got this cake right at the first time.

Not everyone likes pumpkin, just like not everyone likes broccoli. Perhaps it is the idea of it being wet and mushy after cooking or simply, it doesn't look very appetizing! I am trying to cook more of it to entice my kids to eat it as it is really packed with alot of vitamins and goodness for the body.

For this cake, there is no butter content at all and the fat part was made up of low fat cream cheese and heavy cream. The pumpkin itself gives alot of moisture to the cake, which results in a denser texture and the taste of the pumpkin is present with less amount of spice added compared to store bought pumpkin bread. The flavor of this loaf cake got better over the days and putting it inside a plastic bag keeps it moist throughout.


Recipe


Ingredients
330g All purpose flour
1 -1/2 tsp baking powder
230g Low fat cream cheese
1 large egg
1 tbsp Heavy Cream
250g Mashed and Pureed Pumpkin ( Libby brand)
150g Light brown sugar
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
50ml Heavy cream

Method
1)Preheat the oven to 375F. Beat the cream cheese till light and creamy. Add in the egg and beat to combine.

2)Stir in the heavy cream . Leave aside.
3)In another bowl, stir the mashed & pureed pumpkin with the light brown sugar till well mixed. Stir in the nutmeg and cinnamon together with the heavy cream till well combined.
4)Spoon the cheese mixture into the pumpkin mixture and fold to combine.
5)Sift the flour together with the baking powder. Fold this into the cheese & pumpkin mixture just until combined. Do not overmix.
6)Pour this mixture into a greased large loaf pan or 2 small ones. Bake for 25 to 30 mins.

7)Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 mins. The cake will continue to cook inside the pan. Turn over the pan and the loaf will fall out. Cool completely on a rack and slice and serve. 

Makes: 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Tart

October is the month when all the holidays planning starts. Starting with Halloween, then Thanksgiving and X'mas and New Year. In the short span of 3 months, I get to bake alot in my kitchen and for this year, I shall be extra careful on the quantity I can eat as I have lost 2/3 of my targeted excess weight and certainly I cannot let the last quarter of the year fail my plans to lose the remaining 1/3 excess weight. It might be hard but it is do-able!

Pumpkins and squash are the star produces this month and the fall colors are just beautiful. Coupled with the crisp cool autumn air, it is the transitional period from summer to the ominous cold winter and a time when it is still enjoyble to go out to play and walk. I love Autumn.

Despite Curry not liking pumpkin pie or anything pumpkin, I went ahead and made this tart today. I first tasted pumpkin pie at a Thanksgiving dinner 8 years ago and perhaps the amount of spice was too much then that I didn't find it attractive to my palate. But over the years, I learned to eat more types of squash and  vegetables, cooked in the conventional way in the pan or steamed and I started to like the pumpkin and its slight nutty taste, which cooks tender on the stove and has a hint of natural sweetness in itself. The Japanese pumpkin Kabocha is one good pumpkin and so far I haven't eaten any more flavorful and sweet pumpkin nor squash like it.

For this tart, I added low fat cream cheese to the pumpkin filling and it definitely added flavor and taste to the tart. I just made up the spice part with equal parts of nutmeg and cinnamon and used heavy cream for the liquid part. I don't think milk will give a smooth filling and the heavy cream is the preferred fat in this tart. I used canned pumpkin to save me time and elbow grease of steaming and mashing it. I used the same Tart recipe as my French Apple Tart, but used only half of the tart dough as this is a small tart measuring only 6 inches. For a cute version, mini muffin pans can be used and as this tart is quite rich, a small bite or slice is easier to eat. And I am surprised that my kids asked for second helpings despite their father wants nothing to do with it! And I find this Pumpkin Tart version of mine is just nice, with a cup of hot tea on a cool autumn afternoon.

Recipe

Ingredients

Tart Case
300g All Purpose Flour
180g Cold but malleable butter
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg

Filling
230g Low fat cream cheese
1 large egg
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp Heavy Cream
250g Mashed and Pureed Pumpkin ( Libby brand)
125g Light brown sugar
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
50ml Heavy cream

Method
Tart Case
1)Sift the flour with the sugar and salt.

2)Cut the butter into small pieces and drop into the flour. Using hands, rub the butter into the flour to coat. Do not overmix, when there is no more obvious separate chunk of butter, the dough is ready. Mixture will be a mess. Or use food processor but do not over process.
3)Beat the egg and pour into the dough and mix to incorporate. Do Not overmix. Form into a disk and wrap up and let it rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
4)Grease a 6 inch removable base tart pan. Take out and roll out the dough to line the tart pan and line with parchment paper and baking beans. Preheat oven to 375F. Bake for 10 mins. Remove from oven. Proceed to do the filling.
Filling
1)Beat the cream cheese till light and creamy. Add in the egg and beat to combine.
2)Stir in the heavy cream and fold in the flour. Leave aside.
3)In another bowl, stir the mashed & pureed pumpkin with the light brown sugar till well mixed. Stir in the nutmeg and cinnamon together with the heavy cream till well combined.
4)Spoon the cheese mixture into the pumpkin mixture and fold to combine.
5)Pour this mixture into the partly baked tart shell and bake for 30 to 35 mins.
6)Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 mins, remove from tart pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.




Friday, October 8, 2010

October Bento Week 1

For the whole week, I was on my own with the 2 kids and all I managed were Bento, a home made pizza and a boxed prepared brownie. And also dinner of course. The weather has changed to cold for good and instead of thinking only what to pack for the Bento, thinking on what to wear for the kids is also a morning routine now. Halloween spirit and atmosphere is everywhere this month and I will include this theme in the Bento this whole month!  

Day 22


Day 23

Day 24
Day 25

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